There comes a time when, as a collector, you have to review your treasured acquisitions and perhaps let some go to make room for more. Well, that time has come for Crosville Motor Services in Somerset.
As most of you know, Crosville is a bus and coach operator based in Weston-super-Mare. Alongside a large and growing fleet of modern service buses and coaches, the garage also houses an enviable collection of heritage vehicles. These are mostly of Bristol manufacture, having either local connections or having been operated by the original Crosville Motor Services in north Wales and north west England.
These are not museum pieces but are used in service on private hire duties as well as attending rallies and running days from time to time. As time passes, various buses are put through a thorough restoration or refurbishment programme and, when they return, are added to the active fleet. This has happened recently, when I drove a 1967 Bristol RELL bus back from Stoke-on-Trent after work costing in excess of £20k was completed.
I had the opportunity to drive a brand new coach last week. Always on the lookout for odd jobs to keep me busy during the winter, I accepted this one with with a mixture of tredipation and curiosity.
It proved to be a very long day, thanks to the rail network. The driving sector went like clockwork, fortunately! I can’t tell you much about the coach in question, except that it’s a TC12 made by Yutong in China with a DAF 10.8 litre engine. It was delivered to Crosville last autumn, wearing the livery you see above, after attending a trade show. Before entering service it needed to carry the more usual all-over-green Crosville coaching livery and that’s where I came in. It was my job to drive the coach – as yet unregistered – over to Marden Commercials in South Benfleet, Essex.
After a full hour of preparation, during which trade plates were attached, I was ready to set off. It was a voyage of discovery, even before leaving the yard as I had to find out where all the relevant switches were located. Headlights, wipers/washers, door controls and so on were laid out in front of me on a dashboard that wouldn’t look out of place on the flightdeck of a bizjet! The final task was to take on a full tank of fuel. The provision of a fuel gauge on the central digital display was a luxury for me. None of the heritage buses I drive normally have one at all. I have to rely on a makeshift dipstick and a Mark One Eyeball!
After being away from base for almost exactly a year, I had the honour of bringing a refurbished Bristol RE back to Weston-super-Mare.
1967-built Southern National 2700 (HDV626E) has been receiving the attentions of restorers at Reliance Bus Works in Stoke-on-Trent since January 2015 and I was happy to be offered the chance to bring it back to the Crosville Motor Services depot again.
This particular vehicle is very significant as it is the earliest surviving Bristol RELL3 chassis. In fact, it was only the 12th example off the production line at Brislington.
I arrived by train and the proprietor kindly offered to pick me up from the station. The only trouble was, my train was diverted to Crewe at the last minute due to a faulty set of points just south of Stoke. After a hasty phone call, I jumped on a train again and we finally met up at Kidsgrove.
2700 had been parked facing the road, ready for my departure. She looked magnificent inside and out. Maybe not ‘concours’ condition but that doesn’t matter. The folks at Crosville just wanted her to be brought up to spec for private hire mechanically and to have some bodywork issues sorted out. A fresh application of Tilling Green and Cream was the finishing touch, together with some repainting inside.